Karen's Explanation

(by anonymous23, 02 November 2008)


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Karen's Explanation, a follow up to "Chase's Story"

My name is Karen and my friend Chase wrote a story about how she took up
smoking.  I was featured in her story.  My parents own a cigarette store that
I manage.  I guess there is some controversy over the fact that I started my
daughter smoking at age 9 so I'm going to explain myself.

I'm 26 years old and have been smoking since I was 15.  My parents own a
cigarette store and are both smokers, so I had been sneaking cigarettes from
them since  age 11 or so.  I didn't even inhale or anything.  I tried doing
it once or twice and I coughed my guts out.  I liked the taste, though, so I
continued smoking, just puffing on the cigarettes.  It wasn't a regular thing
with me.  Sometimes I would go months without doing it.  Usually I would just
smoke once a week, when I knew everyone else in the house was asleep.  

I never stole from my dad, only my mother, and only one at a time.  The whole
house smelled like smoke, so I knew they would never actually find out unless
they caught me doing it, so I only did it when they weren't around.  I didn't
tell any of my friends or my younger sister, Kay, that I had been smoking.  I
didn't even really think anything of it.  It was just this thing I did every
once in a while.  It made me feel more adult.  Since I wasn't inhaling, I
really wasn't getting any pleasure from it.  But I still did it.  What led to
me getting caught by my mom was I actually burned a couple holes in my carpet
over the four years I had been sneaking cigarettes.  

I hid the burns by covering them up by moving stuff around my room., like my
dresser to cover one burn that happened when I was 11 and one that happened
when I was 13 or so.  It worked out well, until it was time to move.  I had
just turned 15 when we moved into a new house.  To be honest, I don't even
think I remembered making the burns.  It just slipped my mind.  When the
movers came, my mom was supervising them and noticed the burns in the
carpet.  So right after we moved into our new house, I came home from school
one day.  She told me to go to my room and that she would meet me there. 
After excusing Kay to go to her friend's house, she met me in my room.  

"I know you're smoking, Karen."  

I lied to her and said I wasn't.  I wasn't expecting what Mom said next.  

"Honey, I'm not mad at you.  I sent you up here to tell you that you can
smoke whenever you want to.  I give you permission."

To be honest, I thought she was trying to trick me into confessing.  So I
still denied it.  She opened up the bottom shelf of my dresser and pulled out
a carton of Marlboro Lights.  My mom's brand was Marlboro Reds.  

"These are yours.  You'll be smoking a lot more now and I don't want you
doing full flavored yet.  Enjoy!" she said as she tossed them to me.  I
couldn't believe it.  I really hadn't thought about becoming a regular
smoker.  I guess I assumed I would some day, but not until I was old enough.

"You're right, mom.  I do smoke.  But this is too much!   I smoke maybe once
a week!"  

Mom kind of looked at me funny.  I know now that an addicted smoker can't
possibly go that long without a cigarette.  I wasn't inhaling, so I wasn't
addicted.  I assumed I was addicted because everyone tells you smoking is
addictive, but I wasn't getting nicotine in my body.  I was just puffing, 
and Mom I think instantly knew that.

"I want to see you smoke."  She then pulled out my first lighter and
ashtray.  I was pretty nervous, so I had trouble getting the pack open.  When
I finally got one out, I lit up and blew the smoke out.  I took a drag and
instantly blew it out without inhaling.

Mom laughed.  "Oh honey, you're not even really smoking."  

"What do you mean, mom?" I said as I took another puff.

"You don't breathe it in, dear.  You're just puffing."

You might think I'm dumb or something.  I was fifteen at the time and I
should have grasped that smoking involves inhaling, but I didn't.  I never
really paid much attention to my parents smoke, and I had no friends that
smoked.  The only couple times I tried inhaling, I coughed, so I assumed that
not everyone inhales.  

"I tried to breathe it in a few times but I coughed.  I just guessed I
couldn't do it."  

My mom smiled and paused for a bit, obviously thinking about what to do
next.  

"Well, I guess you're not addicted to smoking, so I see no reason to allow
you to do it."

She went from telling me I could smoke whenever I wanted to saying I couldn't
smoke at all.  I frowned, and she saw it.  For some reason, this made me put
my cigarette out.  Then she continued.  

"But, I'll still let you if you agree to start inhaling."  

I wasn't thrilled to hear that either.  I had tried a failed in inhale a few
times.  

"I can't do that mom.  It makes me cough."

Mom shook her head.  

"It usually takes time.  For some it takes longer then others.  How long have
you been puffing?" 

"A few years."

Mom smiled.  She had no idea.  

"I bet you could inhale now if you tried.  You've had enough trace amounts of
smoke get in you I bet."  

I told her I still wasn't sure I wanted to breathe it in.  

"Karen, the point of smoking is to inhale it.  That's why people smoke.  If
you're still afraid about coughing, I can make sure it doesn't happen."

I was sure I wanted to be able to smoke, but not sure I wanted to inhale. 
Still, she had my attention.  

"You can, how?"

Before going further, Mom had to make sure I was ready to make a lifetime
commitment.  

"You have to know Karen that once we do this there is no turning back.  You
will become addicted.  You will likely be a smoker for the rest of your
life.  When you start to feel the bad effects of it, you might decide you
want to quit and it will be harder then anything you can imagine.  It could
drive you crazy.  I'm sure you've heard how bad smoking is for your health. 
Are you sure you want to do this?"

I had some more questions, so I asked Mom if she would answer honestly.  

"How soon will my health get bad?"  

"It won't get really bad for a long, long time.  I've been smoking for thirty
years and I feel fine.  But you will get a smoker's cough after a while. 
It's not like the cough you have when you're sick or when you tried inhaling
before.  It's just your body expelling some of the built up gunk that smoking
causes."

"Will it ruin my looks?"

"No, honey.  You'll look the same.  You'll start to look older when you get
older, and not sooner."

"Will I be like a different person?"

"No, honey.  Smoking doesn't change who you are.  You'll still be Karen."

I had one last question.

"If you could go back in time, would you still start smoking?"

Mom actually had to think about that for a bit, before looking at me and
smiling.

"Yes, I would" she said with pride.  "So, what do you want to do?"

I decided I would do it.  

"If you can make it so I don't cough... yes Mom, I want to smoke for the rest
of my life."

Mom smiled.  

"I'm going to inhale smoke into my lungs.  When I breathe it out, I want you
to breathe in the smoke that comes out of me as deeply as you can.  You won't
cough dear, I promise."  

Mom lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply.  She grabbed my head to hold it still
and then placed her lips next to mine.  She wasn't kissing me, more like she
was asking me to smell her breath.  She then slowly exhaled a stream of
smoke, which I then inhaled.  My lungs instantly felt warm and I knew the
smoke was in them.  It felt really good.  She finished her exhale and pulled
back.  I pressed my lips together and started to blow it out.  It looked
totally different then my previous smoking experiences.  It looked real.  It
gave me a thrill, because now I was really smoking.  I started to smile.  

"I want to do it again."

"Okay Karen.  Breathe in slowly this time.  I'm going to give you a lot more
on this one."

Mom took a very long drag, longer than she would normally take.  She inhaled
deeply, and then very slowly exhaled.  I breathed in slowly as she had told
me and felt the steady stream of smoke enter my lungs.  My mom's exhale
seemed like it went on forever.  I could feel every inch of my lungs get
coated with smoke.  Finally, the smoke stopped coming out of her mouth.  I
continued to breathe in, and then I exhaled a stream of smoke almost as long
as the one my mom had just given me.  

"You don't need this anymore dear.  Your lungs are ready."  

She pulled out one of the Marlboro Lights (my Marlboro Lights!) out of the
package and handed it to me.  I lit myself up and took a puff.  

"Go ahead dear, you won't cough."

I started to drag on the cigarette.  I had been doing this for years, but was
about to enter new territory.  I removed the cigarette from my mouth and
quickly, deeply inhaled.  The smoke entered my lungs and was unlike anything
I had ever experienced.  It was so much more intense then what my mother had
given me, but it felt so good.  I looked at the mirror on my vanity as I
exhaled my own smoke for the first time.  It looked so different coming out
of me.  I looked like a movie star.  I was a real smoker now, and it felt
good.  

My mom told me that although I was free to smoke as much as I wanted, I was
not allowed to smoke outside the house and I was not allowed to let my father
or Kay know.  Kay had shown no interest in smoking and in fact has never
taken it up, much to our regret.  I quickly became addicted to smoking and
after six months or so I was hovering at around a pack a day.  My mom coached
me on making my exhales look more polished, my holding, everything.  We grew
closer as a result.  

I never smoked a school, but I knew people who did smoke.  One of them was a
boy named Jason.  We built a romance from that, and long story short, I got
pregnant.  I was incredibly stupid.  Not that I don't love my daughter, but I
figured I was old enough to be a parent and I would be with Jason for the
rest of my life.  I was totally wrong on both counts.  My parents were pissed
of course.  They wouldn't allow me to move out until I was 18, but Jason hung
out at our house so much it was like he was practically living there.  

I didn't quit smoking when I was pregnant.  I know it's not the best idea,
but I did curb it to about four or five a day.  Jason put up a good act as
the caring boyfriend.  My parents hated him and called him a deadbeat.  I got
mad at them when they’d say it, screaming at them to lay off him.  They knew
better then I did.  I had Jessica right before I turned 17.  I ended up
having to drop out of school.  It was okay.  I had planned to work in my
parents' cigarette store anyway, and I knew Kay, very much an anti-smoker,
would never want to.  Jason and I were still together, kind of.  We talked
about getting married.  I still had a school girl crush.  By this point, I'm
sure he was looking for the door.  He never contributed any money for the
child.  I'm sure he thought my family was loaded or something, so he had no
intention of helping.  Not that he had a job or anything.  I was so stupid.  

Neither of us finished high school.  We continued to see each other.  I was
talking about making plans for the wedding, even though he never asked.  I
was totally head over heels in love with him and was oblivious to that.  My
parents kept bitching at him to get a job, which pissed me off.  Why wouldn't
they lay off of him?  

Right after I turned 19, I got pregnant again.  I called Jason at his
parents’ home as soon as I found out.  I never heard from him again after the
conversation ended.  I was pretty much a wreck for the entire pregnancy -
delusional at first, insisting he would come back.  I didn't come to terms
with it until after my daughter Kim was born.  Jessica had turned three, and
I was in no condition to take care of them.  I'm not proud to say it, but I
split for a year.  I wasn't doing anything bad or anything.  I worked as a
waitress.  I called in occasionally.  My parents told me to come home.  They
had legal custody of my kids, but I didn't really care.  I was so selfish. 
It wasn't until a little while after I turned 21 that I decided it was time
to grow up.  

I returned home and won back the trust of Jessica and had to form a
relationship with Kim, who I really had never grown attached to.  But things
worked out and soon I had custody of them.  I never heard from Jason again,
but it was okay.  I had my girls.  

Over the year I was gone, I had grown into a two pack a day smoker.  I
switched to Marlboro Reds when I got my first legal pack at 18 and never
looked back.  The taste and sensation were so thick and consistent, it just
was the right brand for me.  I made no effort to hide it from my girls. 
Jessica was four when I got her back and had been under the care of my
parents, who did a great job.  She was clearly going to be a smart kid., way
smarter then I was.  Kim's a great girl, too.  I have such wonderful kids.  

I figured both of them would end up smokers some day.  I had decided that I
would tell each of them on their 13th birthday that they were free to start
if they wished.  

Right after Jessica turned nine, she started to ask me more frequently about
smoking.  Why did I do it?  What did it feel like?  Typical questions you
would expect from kids.  When an anti-smoking commercial would air, she would
ask me if that was going to happen to me.  In retrospect, maybe I should have
told her yes, even if it wasn't true, but I told her no.  Pretty soon, she
was asking a dozen questions or more a day.  I was getting pretty concerned.

I was off work one day.  I entered Jessica's room to clean it up a bit while 
I was smoking a cigarette.  Some kids get bugged by their parents smoking but
Jessica never did.  She had been watching TV, but as I smoked she started
watching me.  I couldn't help but notice.

"What is it, dear?"

Jessica didn't hesitate to answer.

"Mom, when I get older, I'm going to smoke."

I kind of laughed.  I knew she would smoke one day.  I intended to let her
when she was old enough to fully understand the health risks.  

"When you're older, Jessica."

I sat down in the living room when it hit me.  I have cartons of cigarettes
in my house and lots of lighters.  There was nothing to stop her from trying
it.  She could do it at anytime.  I felt okay with that.  Maybe she would
just do it like me, but not inhaling.  

But then I thought about what that meant.  I remembered the burns in my
carpet when I was kid.  That could happen here.  Hell, I even burned a hole
in the couch by accident and I've been smoking for ten years.  Jessica could
presumably set her bed on fire or something.  

If she started inhaling, she could end up more addicted to it then anyone her
age should be.  

Plus, she had a lot of friends and she liked to share her toys and stuff with
them.  Well, if she were smoking, she was almost certainly sharing it with
her friends.  I'm sure that would not have gone over well with their parents.

I also had Kim to consider.  Jessica was very close with Kim, who  was only
6.  I absolutely did not want her trying smoking at that age, but Jessica
might get her doing it as well.

I was unsure what to make of it all, so I called my mom.  She thought it was
funny at first.  Then I asked her if maybe Jessica should start.  She was
against it.  Too young, she argued.  When I explained what my thought process
was, Mom's tone of voice changed.  After a long pause, she told me it was my
call.

Jessica came into the room after I hung up with Mom.  I sat her down and
asked her if she knew how bad smoking was.  

"I know it's bad for you," is all she said.

"Do you know why it's bad for you?" I asked.

"It gives you cancer."

"Do you know what cancer is?"

"It's a disease you get from smoking that makes you die.  Do you have cancer,
mom?"  

All I could think was... crap.  I totally painted myself into a corner.  I
couldn't say something that would upset her.

"No, I don't have cancer."

"Will you get cancer?"

Again, I couldn't let her get upset.  

"No, I won't."

Jessica smiled.  Well, I blew that one.  So I decided to try a different
tactic.

"You know how mommy coughs?"  

Jessica nodded her head.  

"I cough because I smoke."  

"You don't cough a lot."

She had me there too.  My smokers' cough isn't really big yet.  

"No, but you know how grandma coughs a lot more then me?  One day I'll cough
like that."

"But grandma seems okay other then that."

And she had me again.  My mom was perfectly fit other then her smokers'
cough.  Well, I totally blew this.  Having seen me on my stationary bike for
an hour a day, I could never explain to Jessica the endurance aspects of it.  

Without anything else to say on the matter, I told her it was time for bed. 
I tucked her in, and that sat in the living room.  I had two options.  The
first option was to quit smoking myself.  It wouldn't have to be forever.  I
always intended for Jessica to smoke when she was old enough.  13 seemed
right.  By that point, kids are exposed to enough anti-smoking lectures in
health class and ads on TV that there is no way they can't know that smoking
is bad for you long term.  At this point, Jessica had no clue.  By quitting
smoking, I could make sure there was no way she could try smoking behind my
back.  

But I love smoking.  Becoming a smoker was the best decision I ever made,
other then coming back to be with my daughters.  After having spent five
years smoking two packs a day, quitting would be harder for me then my mom
ever could have imagined.  I might seem selfish, but quitting smoking could
have an effect on my emotions and my ability to be a good mother, even if it
was only on a short term basis.

I wiped a tear from my eye and chose option two.  The next day, Jessica would
start smoking.

Understand that I made this decision with a very heavy heart.  I wanted my
daughter to smoke, but much later in life and I only wanted her to smoke
after she knew what smoking leads to and chose to start anyway.  I would have
been fine if she had chosen not to.  Now, I was making a choice for her that
would impact the rest of her life.  She would become addicted much earlier
then I had planned.  Quitting would be extremely difficult for her and
because she was in school, she would have to go many hours of the day without
a cigarette.  I never really had to deal with this.  By time I had progressed
to the point of needing to smoke more often, I had dropped out.  Jessica
would have to deal with cravings while in classes.  At her age, she certainly
couldn't sneak off for a cigarette.  Letting her smoke seemed less and less
like a good idea.

On the other hand, I started to think about what good would come of this.  By
starting her on my terms, I would be able to control how often she smoked,
and I would be able to impose strict rules related to her smoking.  Heck,
maybe I could even threaten to take her cigarettes away if she acted up. 
Although the negatives seemed to outweigh the positives, I had painted myself
into a corner.  I had no other choice. 

I mentally mapped out how I would allow Jessica to progress as a smoker.  For
the first year or so, I would only allow her to smoke a couple times a day,
and never before school.  During her first summer as a smoker, she would only
be allowed to smoke during the same hours she could smoke while class was in
session.  After a year, addiction would set in and I would have to allow her
to increase her intake to about a half a pack a day.  At 12, I would switch
her to a stronger cigarette, which would eliminate the need to increase her
smoking for the time being.  At age 13, I would start to slowly let her
intake increase until she reached a pack a day level at around the time she
turned 14.  Hopefully by that point, she would be smart enough to be able to
smoke without getting caught at school.  

Because my mother watched the kids while I worked, I would have to let her
know.  I called her and told her that I would be starting Jessica smoking the
next day.  She was sad but understood and told me that she agreed that it was
likely the best call I could make.  My father is pretty conservative and
would have been firmly against my decision, so we made an agreement to never
let him know.  We would need to have him watch Kim for a few hours the next
day while I turned Jessica into a smoker, so we told him Jessica had a
dentist appointment that would take a while.  Mom agreed to meet me at work
early the next day so we could discuss brands.

I went to work the next morning.  Business at the cigarette store was pretty
slow, which allowed Mom and me to talk openly about Jessica and the path we
were about to embark on.  We both came up for reasons for it and against it,
but ultimately decided that starting her now was just the right thing to do. 
We started to discuss brands.  My mom thought an ultra light would be a good
idea.  It would limit the amount of tar she would get in her lungs and allow
her to continue to lead an active lifestyle as a child.  If she decided she
wanted to be an athlete or a cheerleader in high school, she would be less
addicted under the ultra-lights and she would be able to smoke a lot less.  
Of course, we knew that no matter what, the odds of Jessica quitting after
this were not very good.  In all likelihood, she would be a smoker for the
rest of her life.  I planned to switch her off lights at age 12, but my mom's
idea was good.  At 12, she would likely know if she wanted to do sports in
school.  If she chose to, we could keep her on the ultra lights and she would
need to smoke less in high school, allowing her to be able to stay in top
athletic shape.  If she wanted to increase her habit, the next step up would
be lights, which are a little less bad for you and she would be able to stay
in near perfect fitness through-out high school.

Neither of us had ever smoked one before, so we opened a few packs of them
and gave them a test smoke.  We both agreed the Virginia Slim Ultra Light
120s were the best choice.  Some were even lighter then that, but we had to
think about Jessica's pleasure.  If she's going to smoke, she might as well
enjoy it, and the VS120s were much more flavorful.  Although we barely felt
the smoke in our lungs, it was a safe guess that it would be a much different
feeling for a nine year old with healthy lungs.  Plus, since they were
longer cigarettes it meant Jessica's smoking sessions would last longer and
eliminate the need for her to smoke as often.  I placed the pack we opened in
my purse and told mom that I would come back for more if she liked it.  

As if she wouldn't.

My mom asked me if I remembered how she passed her smoke to me the day I
started inhaling.  Of course I did.  I will never forget that day.  She told
me that I would need to give Jessica more of my smoke then she had for me.  A
full cigarette's worth.  I asked if I should use one of the ultra lights when
I did it, but she told me I wouldn't be giving her enough smoke then.  I
should use one of my Reds when doing it.  I still couldn't believe I was
about to do this.

Mom left the store at about 2:30 to pick up the kids.  She would be dropping
Kim off at their house so my dad could watch them, then look after the
cigarette store while I introduced Jessica to smoking.  I got really
nervous.  My nine year old daughter was about to start smoking, and I was
helping her do it.  It seemed weird.  I was started to wonder what she would
look like smoking.  What if she didn't like it?  What if she wanted to smoke
more then I would let her? 

At about 3:15, my mom arrived with Jessica.  I gave my mom a hug and she
wished me luck.  

"Try to enjoy this moment," she said to me.  

I hadn't thought about it that way.  Jessica would be smoking, a habit I
enjoyed completely and I would be sharing that joy with her.  I looked at
Jessica in the car, and suddenly it didn't seem like such a bad idea anymore.

I didn't mention smoking to Jessica on the car ride home.  My nerves were
still high and I was chain smoking on the way home.  We got home and I
allowed Jessica to settle down in the living room.  I positioned a cigarette
in my fingers.  It would be the one that I would use to change Jessica.  I
walked into the room, nervous but ready.  This had to be done.  I sat next to
her on the couch.

"Jessica, I'm going to let you start smoking."

Jessica's eyes grew wide.  "When, Mom?"

"Right now."

A huge smile grew across her face.  

"I'm going to be a smoker?"  

"Yes."

"Thanks, Mom!"

I gave her a hug and then explained to her how I would be passing the smoke
from my lungs to hers.  I lied to her and said everyone starts smoking this
way.  She told me she was ready.  I lit up, inhaled deeply, and exhaled smoke
straight into her mouth.  Jessica breathed in deeply and then watched as she
exhaled a cloud of smoke into the room.  I have never seen her happier.  

"Am I smoker yet, mom?"

"Not yet honey, not until I finish doing this."

I passed my smoke to her again.  She inhaled a little less shallowly,
obviously hoping to see the smoke escape from her faster.  

"You have to hold it your lungs in a little longer, dear."

"Okay, mom.  Please give me more."

On the third pass, Jessica held the smoke in her lungs for a couple seconds
but still managed to blow a pretty decent stream of it out.  She was clearly
following my own style of smoking.  I continued to pass her my smoke. 
Knowing there was no turning back for her now, I crushed out my cigarette.  

"When can we do this again, Mom?"

"We don't do that part again, honey.  Now you're going to have your first
cigarette."

Jessica was clearly excited.  I pulled out the ultra lights and told her this
would be the only type of cigarette she was allowed to smoke.  

"If I see you try to take one of mine I won't let you smoke anymore."  

"I understand, mom."

I lit my daughter up for the first time.  She pretty much understood the
mechanics of getting the smoke into her mouth, but required some help on
inhaling.  

"When you take a puff, you need to breathe in as soon as you’re done sucking
on the cigarette - a deep breath, through your mouth."  

She did as I told her and the first jolt of her own smoke hit her lungs for
the first time.  She smiled as she blew out a big stream of smoke across the
room.  I didn't say anything and neither did she.  I just watched as my
daughter smoked her first cigarette.  After it was half gone, I asked her
what she thought.

"It's really cool, mom.  It tastes funny but it feels good."  

I was actually glad she enjoyed it.  

"I know it does Jessica, and I promise you'll love the taste of it soon."

Jessica continued to smoke her first cigarette.  I lit one myself and blew
the smoke straight into the air.  Jessica followed my lead by taking a drag,
inhaling pretty deeply for a rookie and blowing in an almost perfect upward
stream.  I had to smile.  I showed her how to de-ash her cigarette and how to
hold it between her fingers.  I still wasn't totally happy with the
situation, but I felt better with it.  She was just so adorable.  My little
girl was a smoker now, and I told her so.

"Now, Jessica, you're a smoker."

"Wow, I'm a smoker.  I... smoke.  I'm... smoking."  It was clearly a lot to
take in for a kid.

After she put her cigarette out, she got a little light headed.  She lay back
against the couch.  She asked if smoking would do this to her every time.  I
told her at first it would, but then after her body was okay with smoking, it
would go away and not come back.  

I laid out the rules for her in a very simple manner.  She could only smoke
at home with me or her grandmother watching her.  She would only be allowed
to smoke a few times a day.  She could not smoke before going to school.  She
could not tell anyone else she smokes, including her grandpa or her sister
Kim.  She could not let her friends know she smokes.  She could not let her
teacher know she smokes.  She could not keep her own cigarettes.  She could
not have an ashtray in her room.  If she broke any of these rules, she
wouldn't be allowed to smoke anymore and would not be given a second chance.  

Jessica agreed to it all and to this day she's never broken any of the
rules.  In fact, she's better behaved then ever.

I told her she could smoke as soon as she got home at 3 pm each day, and then
once again every two hours after that until her bedtime at 9 pm.  I still
wasn't sure how I would deal with Kim.  I couldn't let her know that Jessica
smoked.  She would stooge us off to her grandpa, or even worse, her school. 
We left our house to go pick up Kim when Jessica actually came up with part
of the solution herself.  "At 3 pm and 5 pm, we will be doing our homework. 
Make us each do it in our own rooms.  You can come in and watch me smoke
then."  I have to say, it was a good idea.  At 7 pm, I figured I could make
Kim take a bath before going to bed, which would free up enough time for us
to smoke together.  And at 9 pm, instead of tucking Jessica straight in to
bed, she could smoke a cigarette first.

The plan worked.  Jessica was able to develop her smoking habit over the
course of a year.  Within a month, she was in full control of the mechanics
of smoking.  Her habit developed very cleanly, and she didn't make a mess
while she smoked.  After a few months, with my help and with Mom's, she had
the skill of an adult who has smoked for a lifetime.  

Smoking is considered an adult thing to do.  Although I'm now in favor of
letting young children smoke, parents who do so should make it clear to their
children that doing so does not make them adults.  I told Jessica as much,
and that I did not want her to act like one.  And she doesn't.  Currently
she's a perfectly normally ten year old.  She plays with toys, she has
friends, she's still learning in school, and she still does everything a ten
year old girl does.  That's how it should be.  

It didn't go perfectly according to plan.  About a month ago it was time for
Jessica's 7 pm cigarette, so I drew a bath for Kim.  I messed up and got the
water too cold.  She got out of the tub to let me know and walked into the
room just as Jessica was lighting her cigarette.  She started to exhale then
turned and saw her sister.  Kim just stood there and kind of smiled. 
Jessica's reaction was priceless.  

"Um, mom, what do we do?"

I had to explain to Kim that Jessica was a smoker now and why she couldn't
tell anyone about it.  I told her that if she followed these rules, she would
be allowed to smoke some day too.  I might not have been so open about
letting her know the possibility exists that she will smoke had it not been
for Jessica.  Her transformation has worked out so much more better then I
could have hoped, I now think the same will apply to her sister.

The day after Kim found out, I allowed Jessica to increase the amount of
cigarettes she smoked daily.  I pretty much left it up to her how often she
wanted to smoke, provided she stayed under 10 a day.  To my surprise, she
pretty much sticks to her old routine on school days, with the exception of
being allowed to smoke before school.  I gave into this.  My daughter is a
smoker, after all.  It would be cruel to not let her smoke when she first
wakes up.  

If you know Chase and Kelly from their story, you know that I allow Jessica
to smoke in front of them as well.  I don't let Jessica smoke in front of my
other friends, even the ones who do smoke.  Some of them have kids and I
think that having a child as young as Jessica who smokes is not something
that will fly with everyone.  But with Chase and Kelly, both are younger and
only recently started smoking themselves.  Jessica really looks up to them
and looks forward to being able to smoke as much as they do.  She even told
me she would not quit smoking Virginia Slims when she was old enough to
choose her own brand.  She wants to look like them, and I'm proud of her for
that.  They're good kids and wonderfully looking smokers.  They often babysit
her, and I trust them to keep her within a safe limit of cigarettes.  They're
good at it and won't allow Jessica to try and keep pace with them.  

I don't think my mental map of how smoking will progress for Jessica is going
to hold true.  Despite only smoking ultra lights, I'm pretty sure she has
become fully addicted to smoking.  With that will come the need to smoke more
often.  I'll curb this at first by switching her to a stronger cigarette. 
She just turned 10, so I'll let the ultra lights stick around for a bit
longer, but I don't see it being more then another six months before I have
to switch her to lights.  As for her intake, I'll try to keep it in check but
in truth I now expect her to be smoking a pack a day around the time she hits
13.  She's shown little interest in sports.  She's good in gym class and
remains pretty fit, and I think she'll remain that way until she's well into
adulthood, but she has also made it clear that she wants to be a heavy smoker
someday.  She has told me many times she will never quit smoking, and I tend
to believe her.  I know she's slowly starting to understand the dangers of
smoking, but is ignoring them.  That's mostly my fault for getting her
started, but I really don't regret the choice.  My daughter is a wonderful
smoker.  It's wasn't the perfect situation at first, but it's worked out so
well.  

As for Kim, I know that within the next two years she will take up smoking. 
She has shown interest in it, but at seven she is way too young and she's not
ready for it.  Maybe within a year, with very strict limitations, I will
permit her.  More likely I will give her my smoke on her ninth birthday.  It
worked out for the best with Jessica and I think it will work for Kim as
well.  I know she wants to smoke, and I will let her do so soon.

My goal in sending this story out is that if you're a parent who smokes and
your child has shown interest in smoking, you have a choice to make.  Your
child WILL try smoking some day, and more than likely will take it up
permanently.  You're tilting at windmills if you think you can stop it.  So,
you can choose to let them do it on their own terms, or on yours.  If your
child wants to just try smoking, let them and be nice about it.  If your
child has said they will smoke someday, help them start.  I was really eaten
up at first by my decision to help her start smoking, and at times today I
feel regret over it.  But ultimately, it worked out for the best.  Jessica is
a responsible and polite smoker.  She also really, really enjoys it.  It has
made her life better.  


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